The Green Bay Packers’ offense is pretty set even before training camp has begun. Yes, there’s a looming question at quarterback, but the rest of the roster is firming up regardless of whatever Aaron Rodgers decides to do.
What isn’t cemented is the offensive line. Uncertainties abound up front, many of them involving where exactly Matt LaFleur will put Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner to start the year. And it’s the versatility of both players that might save Green Bay early on in the regular season.
Replacing a first-team All-Pro usually doesn’t happen with the snap of a finger. The Packers will try to do just that this year after Corey Linsley joined the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. The move was expected; Linsley was due a big payday, and the Packers didn’t have much cap flexibility. It become a foregone conclusion once Green Bay re-signed Aaron Jones.
Green Bay had another All-Pro last year, left tackle David Bakhtiari. This was the fifth time in Bakhtiari’s career he was named an All-Pro, and the second time on the first team. But as everyone knows, Rodgers’ blindside protector went down late in the season with a torn ACL and his timetable for a return in 2021 is still unclear.
That’s two All-Pros who could be missing from the jump this year.
Enter Jenkins and Turner.
Elgton Jenkins played all five positions across the offensive line in some capacity last year. Not only that, he started at least one game at tackle, guard, and center. To put a cherry on top, Jenkins excelled wherever he was lined up along on the offensive line.
It’s one thing to be able to plug in across the offensive line, but Jenkins resides on a whole other plane of existence with his capacity to line up fairly flawlessly wherever he’s needed. That sort of versatility top-tier ability across the line is unheard of in the NFL. Yet, Jenkins can do it.
Billy Turner was an under-the-radar free-agent scoop-up back in 2018 for the Packers, and he’s been an essential part of the offensive line since he arrived.
In 55 career starts, Turner has started: 34 games at right guard, eight games at left guard, eight games at right tackle, and five games at left tackle.
What’s most intriguing about those numbers is that Turner has started way more frequently at guard, but offensive line coach Adam Stenavich thinks he’s better at tackle.
“I’ve always felt Billy’s best position was tackle, in general,” said offensive line coach Adam Stenavich. “When we could move him out there, I felt better having him out there. Him going to left tackle, he’s played a lot of different positions over his career. … He’s a pretty reliable guy in general. If he can get his mind right that week for whatever position he’s going to play, I feel really good about him out there doing his thing and being productive.”
His own coach would prefer him at tackle, but with Green Bay in a pinch last year following multiple injuries across the line, Turner was able to kick in to the guard spot and flourish.
Entering training camp, Linsley is gone and who knows if Bakhtiari has a realistic shot at starting Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints.
Based on how the line was shuffled out in minicamp, LaFleur could opt to start rookie second-round pick Josh Myers at center from the get-go. The Ohio State product has the makeup of a potential 10-year starter at center in the NFL. But to expect him to step in and try and fill the shoes of Linsley without experiencing any hiccups is unrealistic. This is where being able to put Turner and Jenkins anywhere can play such a vital role in the opening weeks of the season.
Linsley’s spot will likely go to the rookie, but Jenkins or Turner could be kicked out to left tackle to protect Rodgers’ (or Jordan Love‘s) blindside until Bakhtiari is able to return. And having not one but two options to do so is incredibly important for this offense.
Guys like Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Aaron Jones get the highlight-reel plays everyone salivates over, while those big fellas up front don’t get enough recognition. What Jenkins and Turner bring to the table makes things far easier for LaFleur and everyone else on that offense.
Green Bay’s offense doesn’t enter the season beset by uncertainties (excepting, of course, The Big Question Mark at quarterback), but the main reason to expect consistency on their overhauled line is the versatility of Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner.